Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/24/18: Ethics Musings While Not Marching [UPDATED]

A Good Saturday Morning To All!

[If you had a speech impediment and lisped your “s’s”, would you choose this song as your only solo among the repertoire of your singing group? Why didn’t Karen tell her bother? This has mystified me for decades…]

1  It’s irrational and pointless fury day in D.C. Today hundreds of thousands of intellectually dishonest, ignorant or purely emotional citizens will be doing the equivalent of screaming at the sky to call for “something” to be done about gun violence., because “think of the children.” Yes, I think that’s a fair characterization.

Given the chance to suggest actual measures that would stop the equivalent of the Parkland shooting, one of my usually rational but currently virtue-signalling-to beat-the-band friends really made this pathetic argument in response to a Facebook post that was a shorter, gentler version of what I just posted on Ethics Alarms: ‘Where is your empathy? Would you feel this way if your son had been killed in the Parkland shooting?”

Can you believe that? “How would you feel if you were so emotionally ruined, angry and despairing that you couldn’t think straight?” Why, I believe that I would be so emotionally ruined, angry and despairing that I couldn’t think straight—and thus useless to any serious and objective public policy discussion. As I told my friend, when “Why can’t you be irrationally and emotionally biased like the rest of us?” is your reflex rebuttal, you’ve got nothin.

2. Related: YouTube is banning gun instructional videos. This a part of a growing trend in the online platform world to attempt to constrict information and discourse according to ideology and partisan preferences. There is no more justification for banning how-to videos about guns than there is for banning how-to videos for chain-saws. The social media companies are going to have to be regulated as common carriers, or the right of free speech and access to information will be slowly strangled by these left-wing, high-tech, useful idiots.

3. From the ” Tragic Misunderstandings of the Cognitive Dissonance Scale” files. Lindsay Lohan is the new spokesperson for Lawyer.com. What, O.J. wasn’t available?

4. Tipping policy update: Remember this ethics quiz, about the proposed rule that would allow restaurants to distribute tips to other workers, like cooks? The spending bill  President Donald Trump irresponsibly signed into law this week includes a section forbidding employers from taking any portion of tips that diners leave for workers—that was a straw man all along—but also allows pooling of tips, which was the original idea. This allows both management and labor to claim victory.

5. Here is a wonderful example of the  cellar-level ethics sophistication in the world of journalism. From a Baltimore Sun op-ed, titled “We’ve been too forgiving of unethical artists”;

Entertainment icons are falling from grace — but what about the work they have created? Is it wrong to be enthralled by Kevin Spacey’s ruthless character in “House of Cards” after learning about his alleged sexual misconduct toward more than a dozen men, including minors? Can we still find Aziz Ansari’s depictions of navigating modern dating insightful after reading about his controversial sexual behavior? After at least eight sexual misconduct accusations, can we still quote Jeremy Piven’s one-liners as super-agent Ari Gold from Entourage? If history is any indication, we probably can. But we shouldn’t. …If consumers want art to be ethically created, they must put their financial support behind artists that align with those values….

We, as consumers, have been incredibly forgiving when it comes to entertainment. We may have even stated as a principle that an artist and their art are two different things. But we should no longer be willing to make that distinction. This is not an unreasonable demand. Artists can be good people — or, at the very least, not predators.

Well which is it, you idiot? Do we want good people, or non-predators?

The writer, Garrett Zink ( a corporate social responsibility strategist) is too occupied with waving his sensitivity flag to bother with such details. In his screed, he manages to mention, in addition to Spacey, Aziz and Piven, Chuck Berry, Michael Jackson, and Woody Allen. He could have also mentioned John Lennon, Pete Seeger, Arthur Miller, William Saroyan, David Bowie, Amedeo Modigliani, Charles Chaplin, Mozart, Hemingway, Picasso, Roman Polanski, Ann Perry (who helped murder her friend’s mother—in the original post I erroneously said that the victim was Perry’s mother), J.D. Salinger, James Brown, William Golding, Norman Mailer, Gore Vidal, Miles Davis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Sean Connery, Clark Gable,  Bill Cosby, Steven Tyler, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra…how long do you want the list to be, and how much of our great art and how many of our great artists do you want to jettison from the culture?

No one who has dealt with artists would ever write something so foolish. Great artists are often great because they are broken people. Their art for them achieves the virtues they cannot. We can have virtuous artists, or good art. We cannot insist on both. We don’t need artists to be good people, just as we don’t need brain surgeons to be good people. We, and society, only need them to do their job brilliantly.

34 Comments

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34 responses to “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/24/18: Ethics Musings While Not Marching [UPDATED]

  1. Glenn Logan

    Can you believe that? “How would you feel if you were so emotionally ruined, angry and despairing that you couldn’t think straight?” Why, I believe that I would be so emotionally ruined, angry and despairing that I couldn’t think straight—and thus useless to any serious and objective public policy discussion. As I told my friend, when “Why can’t you be irrationally and emotionally biased like the rest of us?” is your reflex rebuttal, you’ve got nothin.

    How can anyone imagine it is an ethical position to allow fear and emotion to drive public policy? Would they feel the same way if the debate was about chucking a few nukes North Korea’s way if there was real fear that they might shoot nukes at us first? I suspect they would instead demand rational thought and negotiation, and rightfully so.

    But when it comes to protecting a bulwark of our freedom, they feel fine about allowing those same emotions to drive lawmaking. This isn’t just a double-standard, it is signature significance — it is insane, literally. It rejects reason in favor of temporary madness, and demands the madness be redressed without reason being present or allowed to inform the debate.

    No truly sane person could advocate such a position, yet you have articulated that they not only advocate it but demand you join their mental infirmity.

    There are no words in Elvish, Entish, or the tongues of men for this madness. It is so removed from ethical behavior that it can’t be categorized meaningfully. Were I ever to espouse such a position, I would ask to be institutionalized.

  2. Chris Marschner

    Why is the focus on common sense gun regulation when the appropriate discussion should be on common sense penalties that would actually deter criminal behavior.

    Here are a couple of suggestions: (sarcasm alert)

    Mandatory execution of those who wound or kill another with a firearm during the commission of a felony.
    Mandatory life without parole for those using a firearm or suggesting they have one as a threat to coerce another in furtherance of a felony.
    Mandatory, 30 years to life for possessing an illegal firearm. Reestablish stop an frisk in areas known to be high violence areas.
    Mandatory life sentence for theft of firearms.
    Treat parents as accomplices to their children’s use of a firearm when they are proven to have acted with gross indifference toward firearm safety.

    AND,

    Disproportionate impact cannot be used as a mitigating factor.

    Now will the kiddies support these measures, or will they find a host of Constitutional reasons why they should not be supported.

    • Michael R.

      Despite liberal’s love of gun laws, they hate to enforce them on actual criminals. This is aided and abetted by the liberal press. For example, last month, Chicago police Lieutenant Paul Bauer was shot dead in a government building. He was the highest ranking officer to be killed in Chicago in decades. His killer was a 4-time convicted felon. He was in a gun-free zone with weapons despite being a convicted felon. From 1998-2005, this felon served a 16-year sentence for armed robbery. In 2007, he was caught with a revolver (with a filed-off serial number), body armor, heroin, and a large amount of cash. Now, with our ‘weak’ gun laws, the possession of a firearm by a felon is a 10 year stint in federal prison. The possession of body armor by a felon is 3 years. What did the very strict gun-control city of Chicago do? They sent him to jail for a few weeks, then let him out again. Any felon caught in possession of a firearm faces 10 years in federal prison. You don’t have to prove intent. However, President Obama prosecuted these cases to a much lesser extent than George W. Bush. Chicago seems to hardly ever prosecute for this.

      Gun control laws are not meant to be applied to criminals. They aren’t meant to make us safer. They are meant to restrict the rights of law-abiding citizens, making them more dependent on the government and making them less dangerous to the totalitarian agenda of the left. If I’m wrong, then why do the very people who insist on new gun laws are needed to keep us safe also insist on not applying existing laws to career criminals?

  3. #1 — You got the question Bernard Shaw asked Dukakis 30 years ago. If Dukakis answered the question the way you did, we may have been spared the Bush’s and Clintons…

  4. ‘Where is your empathy? Would you feel this way if your son had been killed in the Parkland shooting?

    My retort would be this.

    How many black people do you want to put in prison just so you can feel safe? Why not just make it illegal to be black? Then we can put them all in prison, and you won’t have to fear anything again.

  5. GBM

    On only one topic: gun control.

    (1) How many gang members and murderers have registered guns? If we take away all rights to legal firearms, then only the criminals will have them. Is that our objective?

    (2) I had an ongoing argument with my father over a period of years, wherein he — ultimate liberal — proposed the banning of all guns for private citizens. This was a man who despised and distrusted both the police and the military. When asked why wanted only those he trusted least to have firearms, he had no answer. Someone answer this conundrum for me, please.

    • THIS^

      Your father likely realizes the discrepancy of his beliefs, but won’t admit it.

      • William Fearnow

        David “The Little Prince” Hogg is way ahead of us on this. Now he wants cops out of his school because they’re racist. https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2018/03/23/david_hogg_parkland_hs_has_become_a_prison_hundreds_of_racist_police.html
        Guns are illegal but so are cops. This kid is a menace. And he’s been given a very large microphone. He seems to have moved on to randomly reading lefty talking points. He reminds me of Woody Allen playing the dictator in “Bananas.” Next he’ll be militating for everyone to wear their underwear on the outside of their clothes. (Like the Kardashians, come to think of it.)

        • Paul W. Schlecht

          What an arrogant little twit! Hogg’s clock is nearing 15, as in the duration of “his” minutes.

          It gets worse.

          Quoth he: “Our Parents Don’t Know How To Use A F*cking Democracy, So We Have To”

          On a brighter note, a PA county has figured out THE way to protect students during school shootings, and (this is where it gets good!) it’s FREE!

          Students in one Pennsylvania county will be armed with rocks in case of school shooting, superintendent says

          http://whnt.com/2018/03/23/students-will-be-armed-with-rocks-in-case-of-school-shooting-superintendent-says/

          Rocks! Whodda thunk it? The dazzling brilliance of Lefties (most, not all) never ceases to amaze!

          • Another Mike

            Free?? Someone needs to make a visit to their local quarry.
            But seriously, people who have actually negotiated a school system to the extent it takes to be a school big-wig thinks this is actually a plan?

            • Paul W. Schlecht

              ”Free?? Someone needs to make a visit to their local quarry.”

              Never paid for a rock in my life, and we have thousands (some damn big ones, too!), harvested from the fertile rock repository that is the south shore of Gitche Gumee & transported south ~ 300 miles over the last nearly 20 years.

              “people who have actually negotiated a school system to the extent it takes to be a school big-wig thinks this is actually a plan?”

              My thoughts exactly. Because this had PUNK’D written all over it, I nosed around a bit to see if it was fake news.

              Perhaps in an earlier, less maniacally secular time, they may have imparted the tale of David & Goliath…

        • Cops are racist?

          But how can we trust them to enforce sensible gun laws in an even-handed manner?

  6. #1 I read the comments on your Facebook page and something someone said rang a bell in my head; I have come to the conclusion that the brains of many in the anti-gun crowd never matured past middle school logic. In my opinion it’s becoming evident that that’s “true” of many out-spoken progressives.
    Now you know why illogical progressives are unethically trotting out children to support their idiotic emotional nonsense.

    • dragin_dragon

      Z, in most ‘normal’ people, the brain ( and, hence, reasoning ability, rational thought, etc.) matures around 23-26 years old. Parenthetically, most of these kids are 15-17 years old, so they’re a ways away from this goal. I digress; my theory is that the brains of liberals and progressives are NOT maturing at that age any longer, possibly because of pot usage, or other, harder, recreational drugs, or, maybe, because of pollution from petroleum-based industries, such as those required to make Priuses or solar cells. May even be genetic. Whatever the cause, it is obvious from some of the commenters on this blog that the ability to incorporate actual facts is slipping. And, if you cannot incorporate actual facts into your argument, you cannot, ultimately, discuss rationally the ethics of the argument.

      • dragin_dragon wrote, “if you cannot incorporate actual facts into your argument, you cannot, ultimately, discuss rationally the ethics of the argument.”

        Jack has some Facebook friends that argue like facts-be-damned immature children and then there are some that couldn’t effectively argue their way out of a wet paper bag. To be fair, I have my fair share of Facebook friends that are equally argumentatively immature.

        Is this the result of The Deliberate Dumbing Down Of America, yes, I think so.

  7. Andrew Wakeling

    Do you remember being 15 and being told you were too young to understand, and the adults knew best? Or have you tried this approach with a teenage son or daughter? My experience is that it was pretty irritating being patronised at 15, and it was quite powerfully counterproductive when I tried it as a parent. It may be hard and tiresome, but as an adult interacting with a teenager you surely must engage in the arguments: which means listening and showing respect to them as you expect them to listen to and show respect to you. They will be adults very soon and we’ll all be dead. Peaceful protest, petitions and political action (rather than rioting) is the right way to express your view in a decent society, and they should be encouraged. To my mind it really is mindblowingly shortsighted to ridicule and demean these young people for expessing their views.

    It would of course be good if you had some proposals to address their core concerns about gun violence in schools, but I don’t think (from your blog) that you have any. Your comments to the effect that the ‘cost’ is worth it to preserve ‘freedom’ and ‘deter tyrants’ stick in my mind. I’d have needed to do some prep before running either of those on our 15 year olds.

    • Andrew wrote: ”Do you remember being 15 and being told you were too young to understand, and the adults knew best? Or have you tried this approach with a teenage son or daughter? My experience is that it was pretty irritating being patronised at 15, and it was quite powerfully counterproductive when I tried it as a parent. It may be hard and tiresome, but as an adult interacting with a teenager you surely must engage in the arguments: which means listening and showing respect to them as you expect them to listen to and show respect to you. They will be adults very soon and we’ll all be dead. Peaceful protest, petitions and political action (rather than rioting) is the right way to express your view in a decent society, and they should be encouraged. To my mind it really is mindblowingly shortsighted to ridicule and demean these young people for expessing their views.”

      Hello there Andrew! You bring up interesting issues. In the Sixties and post-Sixties, for reasons that can be traced and described, the reverence for authority was severely undermined. My impression has been that in the Sixties and afterward there was a total undermining of confidence and respect for institutions, moral systems, reliogion and religious authority, and then of course you know about ‘moral relativism’ which was perhaps a facet of reaction to ethical and moral problems. Robert Bork laid out a critique of this ‘youth culture’ in his book ‘Slouching Toward Gemorrah’. Seen from his angle, this undermining of respect for authority has laid the base for different currents of dissolution. Why? Because a solid defensible ground in morality and ethics was seen as 1) not really existing or 2) not being present in any namable institution or person.

      I respect what you are saying about the good sense in listening to the kids if I take it at an abstract level. But I think that you are failing to take something important into consideration and this has to do with what happens in a culture generally when it has more or less gone off the rails in terms of living within sound moral and ethical principles. A kid — any person really — will only respect an authority that they have grounds to respect. Sounds circular of course. But what I mean is that in a society that has been seduced and perverted most everyone and all the institutions are affected by corruption and there is no center or institution that can be held as a model.. And in the downward descent — as things seem to be going — it just get worse and worse.

      It sounds quite plausable that it is necessary to listen to the kids. But what and who is informing them, their ideas, their ethics, their moral position? I would suggest that they — especially they — have a life in the ruins of collapsed ethical and moral systems and they themselves should not be listened to. What I mean is that they have no particular standing or authority unless they can demonstrate that they are operating out of a complete system. But they really have none except what one is offered by a general consensus, which is really to say not one at all.

      The present social hysteria and this pseudo-activism has been engineered by powers that remain invisible. I think this is a true statement. It appears to be organic and spontaneous but that is a cultural form of ‘reality TV’. It is very hard to say what is motivating kids in different parts of the country to walk out of their schools. It seems noble but this is fake. They are being cynically played by huge political forces that have designs that are difficult to see, understand and describe.

    • Stating the obvious that seems to have escaped you: listening to 15 years olds does not require putting them on national TV, or pretending that they have expertise when they do not. Nor am I any more obligated to solve a problem cultures have been arguing about for centuries just because kids scream “Do something!”

    • Andrew Wakeling,
      Have you ever heard of enabling?

      When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became an adult, I put the ways of childhood behind me.

      Should adults encourage immature thinking and reasoning from a 15 year old or should adults encourage that 15 year old to start thinking and reasoning more like an adult. Argue with an adolescent at their level of maturity and you’ll loose every time, be the adult in the room; statements like you are too young to understand, and adults know best is arguing immaturely. If a 15 year old want’s to be respected as having adult opinions then dammit that 15 year old better be acting like an adult and presenting opinions that are adult.

      Here’s part of the problem; the political left in general, the anti-gun adults zealots, the anti-Constitutional Progressives, and the media are all literally encouraging immature thinking and reasoning from children and enabling them to remain immature. Why are they doing this; it’s partially because if you’re immature yourself you can’t recognize immaturity in others. This is a constant problem in our society; the political left has been, and is, enabling and encouraging immature people to never mature beyond adolescent reasoning. This is dumbing down the populace.

      The intelligent people in the political left see this as a windfall; after all, what better way to manipulate the populace than to have impressionable immature voting adults thinking and reasoning like children. What better way to baptize impressionable teens into the massive brainwashing dumbing down tactics of progressive propaganda than to have them literally yelling the immature progressive propaganda at the top of their lungs. For the left, the ends justify the means. The left is promoting the immature opinions of these ignorant teens as experts and “telling” them that their immature voice is going to change the world and like a magnet these teens will be sucked into the feel goodness of the Progressive movement. It’s almost like giving these children a giant participation trophy to flaunt at the world!

      This is what the recent protests projected…

      • Andrew Wakeling

        Yes Zoltar. We agree. Saying “you are too young to understand” as an adult to your 15 year old, is “arguing immaturely” and is a very low percentage play. Yes, of course, we should encourage our children to think and argue rationally and maturely. That does not mean bullying them to agree with us ‘the wise adult’ as contrasted with them, the “ignorant, inexperienced child”. It helps to keep in mind that we might learn from our children, even when we are so keen that they should learn from us. It is hard to be a parent and I simply can’t fathom anyone who reckons they have all the answers. I am very relieved my children seem to have survived having me as a father. I did try hard to respect their views, to explain mine, and to reassure them that we could disagree. (I failed frequently and thank God for their mother!). My mental lodestar has been that if I wanted my children to behave as adults, I must treat them as adults. And the onus was on me to start the process.

        I can’t share or really comprehend your comments about the “political left ….. enabling and encouraging immature people to never mature beyond adolescent reasoning”. I cannot see any ‘conspiracy’, simply deep clashes of philosophical perspectives. In such times ‘bad people’ get plenty of opportunities to inflame divisions and provoke trouble.

        • Oh, pshaw, baloney and balderdash. I’m happy to listen to kids. They don’t belong on Meet the Press and lecturing adults from a podium. Nobody’s bullying them to remind them that they have a lot to learn, don’t have all the answers, and need to listen to people with more experience and education than they have.

        • Andrew Wakeling wrote, “I can’t share or really comprehend your comments about the “political left ….. enabling and encouraging immature people to never mature beyond adolescent reasoning”. “

          To start off you must first understand just how illogical and immature the argumentation is that the the political left in general, the anti-gun adults zealots, the anti-Constitutional Progressives, and the media have been using. If you can’t get to that understanding then you might at least consider that, at some level, you might be part of it. Don’t take that as an insult, it wasn’t meant that way; I try to encourage people to look inward. If you don’t consider yourself to be part of it, that’s fine.

          Andrew Wakeling wrote, “I cannot see any ‘conspiracy’…”

          Who said anything about a “conspiracy”; I didn’t and I don’t think I implied that either.

          Andrew Wakeling wrote, “…simply deep clashes of philosophical perspectives.”

          If by stating that you are meaning that there are deep clashes between people that think logically/critically with their argumentation and people who’s primary argumentation is immature and fear mongering to encourage feelings to override critical thinking and logic, then I completely agree with you.

          Andrew Wakeling wrote, “In such times ‘bad people’ get plenty of opportunities to inflame divisions and provoke trouble.”

          Who are these “bad people” you speak of? What exactly are you trying to say here?

          • Andrew Wakeling

            “To start off you must first understand just how illogical and immature …….”

            Well, put like that Zoltar, no I probably don’t, and as you say, I might be ‘part of it’. Yes introspection can be good. Empathy is good too …… trying to understand why honest, decent, intelligent people (yes there are some even in the ‘left’) think differently.

            You seem to paint ‘conspiracy’ with phrases like “what better way to manipulate the populace “. To ‘manipulate’ requires a ‘manipulator’ with at least ignoble aims.

            You know your history Zoltar, of how pointing towards a ‘cabal of evil manipulators’ has always been a good way of rousing the mob, particularly when there are very real causes of distress. I am NOT accusing you of doing this. I am simply suggesting that crystallising an intensley political debate around ‘they are illogical, immature and manipulated’; as opposed to ‘we who are ……..’ might not be the best game plan. (?)

            I see our determination to understand and tolerate (even ‘love’) our neighbours as fundamental to a decent society. We are essntially a social animal. We thrive when we manage successfully to cooperate and compromise. We fail when we can only resolve our differences by killing each other.

  8. Aha, that moment when a photo speaks for an entire movement…

    Just reasonable regulations, eh? LIARS!

  9. Pennagain

    Historical novelist Anne Perry (nee Juliet Hulme) did not murder her mother; she participated with her friend in the murder of her friend’s mother in a panic to prevent their being separated. Less than two years earlier “Anne” at age13, having been separated from family and peers in Caribbean and South African tuberculosis sanitartiums, had found an indifferent welcome home to New Zealand by a family with other interests, and by more experienced girls (in knowledge, if not practice) at private school. Her isolation was relieved by finding a friend outside school (an obsessive relationship, she says, not lesbian: we are never to know) and creating a complex fantasy world they both lived in for the next two years until Anne’s parents broke up and she was once again “on the move,” so to speak. Only her friend’s mother stood in their way, not allowing her daughter to leave with Anne. A child’s tragedy, a parental failure all round.

    Age, immaturity, mental/emotional state, background or not, Anne behaved as unethically as anyone else who knowingly kills another person. But I don’t think her name belongs with the group of adult miscreants you have put her in.

    However, as long as you’ve brought up the subject: The 1954 situation is fictionalized in the 1994 Heavenly Creatures (featuring, incidentally, Kate Winslet’s first movie role). And finally, in 2012, a full feature documentary, Interiors that was well received but appears to me to be overwrought, though that might just be the trailer:

    and a 2007 interview with Ian Rankin that (not to approach a pun) pulls no punches: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_oYT9mvChw

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